Exercise may help thwart ovarian cancer
Lack of exercise is linked with an increased risk of ovarian cancer, studies find.
A team at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York has been investigating the disease, and found that years of physical inactivity prior to diagnosis was associated with increased risk of developing ovarian cancer and of dying from the disease. The research is based on two pooled analyses of several studies from the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), around 7,100 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.K. each year. It is most common in women who have been through the menopause, although it can affect women of any age.
"Women may be overwhelmed with mixed messages about physical activity or exercise recommendations and opt to be inactive because they feel that they cannot meet the recommended amount of physical activity," said Professor Kirsten Moysich, senior author of both studies. "Our findings suggest that any amount of regular, weekly recreational physical activity may reduce the risk for and improve survival from ovarian cancer, while a lack of regular exercise throughout adulthood is associated with an increased risk of developing and dying from ovarian cancer."
In one study, the researchers analysed data from more than 8,300 ovarian cancer patients and more than 12,600 women without ovarian cancer. They found that those women who said they didn't do any recreational physical activity during their lives were 34 per cent more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who exercise regularly. The researchers said the link between inactivity and a higher risk of ovarian cancer was seen in both women who were of normal weight and those who were considered overweight or obese.
The other study of more than 6,800 ovarian cancer patients found that women who were inactive in the years before the diagnosis were 22 per cent to 34 per cent more likely to die of the disease than those who had done at least some regular exercise. Once again, this was the same for both normal-weight women and those who are overweight.
"While the current evidence regarding the association between different amounts of physical activity and ovarian cancer remains mixed, our findings demonstrate that chronic inactivity may be an important independent risk and prognostic factor for ovarian cancer," said Dr Rikki Cannioto, first author of both studies and a research affiliate at the cancer institute.
Less than 45 per cent of ovarian cancer patients survive five years, the researchers said. And while the studies didn't prove that exercise would prevent these cancer deaths, they suggest regular physical activity can help lower risk or improve prognosis once diagnosed.
The investigations were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (CEBP) and the British Journal of Cancer (BJC).